While their time at the top may be coming to an end, the Golden State Warriors have ruled the NBA over the last decade with four champions in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022.
Yet despite all their success, the Warriors will also reflect on a pair of missed opportunities when they lost the NBA Finals in 2016 and 2019. The first saw them suffer a Game 7 defeat to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers after leading 3-1, while their chances in 2019 were impacted by key and devastating injuries.
Jordan Bell believes the Golden State Warriors would have won the 2019 NBA Finals if not for Klay Thompson's knee injury
Kevin Durant played in just 12 minutes during the six-game series against the Toronto Raptors in 2019. The back-to-back Finals MVP had injured his calf earlier in the playoffs, unable to return until Game 5 where Golden State found themselves down 3-1.
Durant scored 11 points in the 12 minutes before going down with a torn achilles that would force him to miss his entire first season with the Brooklyn Nets. Despite the injury, the Warriors fought back from a fourth-quarter deficit to steal Game 5 on the road.
They looked like taking Game 6 too, only for Klay Thompson to suffer a torn ACL in the third-quarter. At that point the sharpshooter had led the way with 30 points, with Golden State holding a five-point lead when he left the floor.
The Raptors ultimately prevailed, though there's a widely-held acknowledgment that the Warriors were the better team if fully healthy. On a recent episode of the Run Your Race podcast presented by Tidal League, former Golden State big man and 2018 champion Jordan Bell reflected on the defeat and the impact of the two major injuries.
"If everybody's healthy we win, I think everybody in the world knows that...I even think if Klay doesn't tear his ACL in that game, we win that one, they've never been to a Game 7. Kawhi has for sure, but the other players ain't been to a Game 7."- Jordan Bell
While the Durant absence and Game 5 injury is often seen as a pivotal aspect to the series, Thompson's injury in Game 6 also offers a huge question of 'what if'. It's also worth noting that the five-time All-Star had missed Game 3 as well with a hamstring issue.
A Game 7 in Toronto would have been a fitting climax to what could have resulted as an all-time great series. Bell seems confident the Warriors would have won even without Durant, and it's hard to argue with that rationale given the experience of having won three of the past four titles.